As I wrote earlier today, some media outlets, like Roll Call and ABC News, were reporting that Sen. Rand Paul could possibly endorse a pathway to citizenship. He’s not. However, that hasn’t stopped the Huffington Post from reporting that he did, which was corrected (kind of). Nevertheless, he does support granting illegal immigrants legal status.
The Washington Post reported that:
The Kentucky senator outlined a path to legalization that would be more demanding than the principles advanced by a bipartisan group of senators who aim to introduce legislation in April. That group includes another likely 2016 contender and possible Paul rival, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).
Paul also called for expanding legal immigration — not a universally held position in the Republican Party. Some of its members believe that allowing more legal immigration will make it harder for Americans to find jobs.
Paul said he sought to turn illegal immigrants into taxpayers, which could ultimately lead to their becoming citizens. Despite early reports that he would endorse a pathway to citizenship in the speech, however, he did not specifically address the citizenship issue.
He suggested that within two years, illegal immigrants should be able to seek temporary worker visas that would allow them to live and work in the United States without fear of deportation.
Concerning the reports that he would back citizenship, his office aides said that the Associated Press’ piece was “wrong, which spurred lot of erroneous reports.” However, Roll Call did mention the fact that Paul’s endorsement of a pathway to citizenship was dubious at best. However, even with the support of legal immigrants ascertaining legal status, some on the right could make the argument that Paul has shifted left on this issue.
Rosemary Jenks of NumbersUSA said that Sen. Paul probably didn’t find the “accurate data.” Furthermore, he “hasn’t thought about the consequences, and is thinking more about the party image.” As a result, he has “contradicted most of his views on government spending.”
Sen. Paul wrote in an op-ed for the Washington Times on February 8 that:
I am in favor of immigration reform. I am also wary of reforms granted now for a promise of border security later. In 1986, Ronald Reagan signed a deal that made just such a promise, yet we are still waiting for the border security that never came. Conservatives are also still waiting for the promised three dollars in spending cuts for every dollar in tax hikes. Fool me once … So, it is understandable conservatives should insist that any immigration reform incorporate the principle of trust but verify.
So, Paul is essentially trying to advocate immigration reform, while still being faithful to his conservative roots about government spending. The problem is that a pathway to legal status is going to increase the burden of the welfare state on the American taxpayer.
As I’ve written before, Sarah Kliff of the Washington Post’s Wonk Blog noted last January how legal immigrants can apply for Medicaid coverage after five years of residency. Also,”the health-care law does offer new coverage options for legal immigrants. They, like American citizens, are eligible for subsidized health insurance coverage if they earn less than 400 percent of the poverty line ($44,680 for an individual).” Philip Klein at The Washington Examiner wrote on January 29 that his:
…very rough estimate based on existing CBO analysis is that an expansion of Obamacare on that scale could easily cost several hundred billion dollars over a decade – maybe more than a half trillion. The reason why it’s difficult to make a projection is that it’s hard to say who would qualify for Medicaid and who would qualify for subsidies. Also, given that the subsidies vary by income level, it’s hard to say (beyond educated guessing) where on the scale this newly eligible population would fall and thus how generous their subsidies would be. Also, it’s hard to say how many of them would have incomes low enough to qualify for existing Medicaid benefits anyway, which they would have been able to claim with or without Obamacare.
Having made these caveats, here are some ways of looking at what it could cost to insure newly eligible immigrants under various assumptions. After the Supreme Court’s Obamacare decision, the CBO estimated that the law would cover an additional 11 million people on Medicaid (at a cost of $643 billion from 2013 through 2022) and 25 million through the exchanges (at a cost of just over $1 trillion over the same period). So, for every additional 1 million people on Medicaid, the federal government will be spending about $58 billion over the next decade and for every 1 million people on the exchange, taxpayers would be spending about $41 billion. Projecting this out for 8 million new beneficiaries would give a range of $328 billion to $464 billion. This would be conservative, however, because the current 10-year CBO estimate includes fiscal year 2013, though the law isn’t going to be implemented until 2014 – thus the actual 10-year cost is understated.
While Jenks gave Sen. Paul credit for putting himself out there on this policy issue, she said that you have to “look at the consequences for American workers and the taxpayers,” which is something that neither side is truly addressing. How are we going to pay for this? I’m curious to know.